“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.” – Don Marquis
Procrastinating is the natural enemy to productivity. At some point, we all fall victim to it, despite our best intentions. What could you be doing right now if you weren’t procrastinating? Here are a few ways you can stop procrastinating and start being productive.
Look at the big picture – It’s easy to get hyper-focused on what you need to do next on your to do-list, especially if it’s but a small step in a big staircase. But taking a look at the big picture will motivate you.
You have a purpose, a plan, and a vision. No matter what it is on your daily agenda, there’s a purpose for it. Your assignment is for a class that will help you complete your degree; your cabinet purchases and furnishing samples are for your redecorating project; your research and plot development are for your novel. Let the big picture motivate you to focus on the small parts that you need to finish in order to get to the end.
Make a detailed list – Cut your project down into smaller tasks to make it easier to manage. Start at the high-level (i.e. finishing a PowerPoint presentation), then break it down into subsequent smaller steps (compiling research, updating the slides, etc).
Writing down a list of your steps makes the process less intimidating and will help you organize your thoughts and sort out exactly what needs to be done.
Cut off all distractions – We often have our cell phones buzzing nearby, maybe the TV is going, or the kids are constantly running in and out, and our spouse is talking on the phone in the other room. It’s hard to work when you’re not in the right mindset or environment. To help this, turn off the electronics, move to another room or a low-traffic venue like a coffee shop, and prepare your mind for one that is ready to work and be productive.
Turn on music or nature sounds – Music can help you or hurt you; it’s different for each person. The right ambience can be perfect, as long as you pick songs that enhance your mood for creativity or productivity, instead of distracting you further.
If you find all music to be more disturbing than helpful, but still feel like you’re missing something, you can try nature sounds. Something peaceful, but constant, can be helpful, like the sound of a creek, rain, or tropical forest animals.
Set out a tangible goal or deadline – Often times we procrastinate because our task or deadline seems impossible. That’s when you need to set realistic goals for today, for tonight, for the next two hours. Tell yourself you’ll warm up by doing 15 minutes of work, or that you’ll write a whole paragraph, before taking a quick break. Then come back from your break and get right back to work.
Either take a chunk of your work, like researching two articles, and resolve to finish it before taking a break, or select an amount of time to work before stopping, like 30 minutes. Depending on your level of focus and motivation, you may want to start out with smaller chunks and then build up to sustained levels of continuous work.